Over 8.5% of students aged 13 to 15 years in India use tobacco, reveals study

The guidelines — launched to safeguard minors and youth from tobacco addiction — also stress the need to take proactive measures to eliminate tobacco vendors within a 100-yard radius of all educational establishments
Educational institutions were also directed to nominate ‘tobacco monitors’ among teachers
Educational institutions were also directed to nominate ‘tobacco monitors’ among teachers EdexLive Desk

As more than 5,500 children initiate tobacco consumption daily in India, the centre on Friday, May 31, rolled out updated guidelines for all educational institutions and campuses to make them tobacco-free. This was stated in a report by The New Indian Express.

On the occasion of World No Tobacco Day, the Union Education Ministry, along with the Union Health Ministry, rolled out the updated guidelines, which stipulate that these educational institutions need to undertake nine activities, including displaying ‘tobacco-free area’ or ‘smoke-free area’ signages in the premises; displaying ‘tobacco-free education institutions’ at the entrance’ and nominating 'tobacco monitors' both in educational institutions and in schools.

The guidelines — launched to safeguard minors and youth from tobacco addiction — also stress the need to take proactive measures to eliminate tobacco vendors within a 100-yard radius of all educational establishments, a clause under the Cigarette and Other Tobacco Products Act (COTPA) 2003.

As there have been violations of this clause, the guidelines mentioned that if there is any such shop within 100 yards selling tobacco products, it should be moved out and instructed the head of institutions to penalise the violators with a fine up to Rs 200 under Section 6b of COTPA-2003.

Violations can also be reported to the local police station, anti-tobacco squad, municipal body, or national helpline number 1800-11-2356.

The need to strictly enforce the rule was felt because it was found that almost 70 per cent of students who smoke cigarettes bought them from pan shops/vendors.

According to the Global Youth Tobacco Survey (GYTS-2019) in India, 8.5 per cent of students aged 13-15 years use tobacco in one form or another.

The guidelines also mentioned that educational institutions should mark a 100-yard area from the outer limit of their institute's boundary wall /fence.

These guidelines aim to increase awareness about tobacco's harms and health effects, ensure a healthy and tobacco-free environment in educational institutions, and enhance the implementation of legal provisions regarding the same use of tobacco products as prescribed for academic institutions, public places, statutory warnings, and minors.

Among the other activities educational institutions need to undertake include, the display of posters or other awareness materials on the harms of tobacco and organising at least one tobacco control activity in six months.

Educational institutions were also directed to nominate ‘tobacco monitors’ among teachers or staff members, and in schools, students from Classes IX to XII were to be nominated. The guidelines said that the 'tobacco monitor' details must be mentioned in all signages placed inside and outside the premises.

It added that these student tobacco monitors should inform the 'tobacco monitor teacher' about the students who consume tobacco in any form inside/outside and support them in quitting.

According to the implementation manual of tobacco-free educational institutions (ToFEI), most adult users of tobacco start tobacco use in their adolescence. In contrast, 55 per cent of users initiate lifelong tobacco use before the age of 20 years.

Tobacco, more often than not, also acts as an entry gate to other addictions because some of them subsequently start using other intoxicating agents like alcohol and other addictive substances, it added.

It is usually observed that tobacco products like cigarettes, bidi, khaini, pan masala zarda, etc, are sold around educational institutions. It promotes tobacco addiction among adolescents and young adults, it said.

Tobacco affects almost all body organs and causes many diseases. Most cases of head, neck, oesophagus, and lung cancers are due to smoking.

Approximately one-third of all cancers are tobacco-related, while 90 per cent of oral and lung cancers are linked to tobacco. It can also cause cancer of the bladder and kidneys.

Tobacco use is a significant risk factor for cancer, cardiovascular diseases, chronic lung diseases, stroke, diabetes, infertility, blindness, and Tuberculosis.

The guideline said that the age of a smoker is reduced by 22-28 per cent compared to a non-smoker, the risk of lung cancer is 20-25 times, and the risk of sudden death is three times.

Second-hand or passive smoking is equally harmful and causes respiratory diseases in children, it added.

The manual, collaboratively developed by Vital Strategies and Socio-Economic and Educational Development Society (SEEDS) under the Department of School Education and Literacy under the Ministry of Education, is poised to be a crucial tool in transforming all educational institutions into tobacco-free zones.

As per the second Global Adult Tobacco Survey (GATS-2, 2017), which was conducted by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Indian government, 28.6 per cent of adults (15+ years), 42.4 per cent of males and 14.2 per cent of females consume tobacco.

About 21.4 per cent of adults use smokeless/chewing tobacco, while 10.7 per cent use smoking forms.

Khaini and bidi are the most commonly used tobacco products. Also, 11 per cent of adults consume khaini, while 8% smoke bidi.

Tobacco use prevalence decreased by 6 per cent, from 34.6 per cent in GATS-1 (2009-10) to 28.6 per cent in GATS-2, which indicates that tobacco control efforts are going in the right direction, according to the guideline.

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